Imposter Syndrome Anxiety: Understanding Negative Core Beliefs

by | Feb 22, 2024 | Anxiety

Imposter syndrome and social anxiety often intertwine, creating a complex web of self-doubt and fear. Imposter syndrome anxiety makes it so you might find yourself in a social situation, feeling like an imposter, convinced that any moment, someone will uncover your perceived incompetence. Even when you’re delivering a presentation, you’re just trying to get through it before anyone realizes you feel out of place.

While these feelings can be fueled by social anxiety, it’s important to note that not everyone with imposter syndrome has social anxiety, and vice versa. Imposter syndrome can also trigger anxiety in people who are typically not anxious, particularly when they find themselves in situations where they feel inadequate. It’s a tricky, often misunderstood condition that can significantly impact your confidence and self-esteem.

What is imposter syndrome?

Imposter syndrome is a psychological pattern defined by individuals doubting their achievements and living in fear of being seen as frauds. It’s prevalent in both men and women across various ethnic groups. Symptoms are not limited to simple self-doubt; they delve into chronic states of anxiety and fear of failure. It can significantly impact a person’s experiences in academic and professional settings.

Common symptoms of imposter syndrome include:

  • Chronic self-doubt
  • Anxiety or depression
  • Feeling like a fraud
  • Inability to internalize personal success
  • Overwhelming fear of failure

These symptoms can create a cycle of self-doubt that’s challenging to break free from. However, it’s possible to manage imposter syndrome anxiety and lessen its damaging effects on your self-esteem and wellbeing.

Despite being called a syndrome, imposter syndrome is not officially recognized as a mental health diagnosis. Some experts in the field prefer to term it as ‘imposter feelings’ or ‘imposter phenomenon’ to clarify its status. Regardless of the nomenclature, the effect it can have is undoubtedly profound and consequential. Developing strategies to overcome imposter syndrome can significantly boost a person’s self-confidence, making them feel more deserving of their successes and achievements.

What causes imposter syndrome?

Firstly, let’s clear one thing – anyone can experience imposter syndrome anxiety. It doesn’t discriminate by profession, age, or gender. Often, it’s rooted in fear and chronic self-doubt. Be it artists, writers, or CEOs, anyone who faces the spotlight can be overwhelmed by the looming shadow of self-worthlessness.

Imposter syndrome is often associated with those who find success in their professional or academic realm. The fear of being discovered as a “fraud” creeps in when they begin to attain recognition or accolades for their accomplishments. The fact is, they aren’t fraudulent in any manner, yet their inner voices convince them that they’re undeserving and inadequate. This misbelief then sends them spiraling into an abyss of self-doubt and anxiety.

Biases and stereotypes also factor into it. Many affected individuals attribute their accomplishments to external factors such as luck or a mistake made by others, thus furthering their feeling of being an imposter. This can create immense psychological pressure, where the individual continually lives in the fear of being exposed as an imposter.

Imposter syndrome isn’t a one-size-fits-all phenomenon. It presents differently in each person, depending on their personal experiences, thought patterns, and psychological makeup. It’s more like a spectrum where those in its clutches grapple with the fear of being deemed a fraud to varying degrees.

The feeling of being an imposter doesn’t come from a place of fact. Instead, it’s usually formed by personal perception skewed by an internalized fear of failure. The individual’s self-esteem dips, the more they convince themselves they are not competent but just lucky or in the right place at the right time. And as this misconception takes hold, it paves the way for a full-blown imposter syndrome.

It’s essential to be aware of these causes, as identifying them is the first step toward overcoming this taxing mental state. By understanding the sources of these feelings, we can develop strategies to cope and eventually, conquer this psychological phenomenon.

Core Beliefs of Imposter Syndrome

Those struggling with imposter syndrome anxiety often exhibit an array of behaviors and thoughts that amplify their feelings of self-doubt and fraudulence. The core beliefs contributing to Imposter Syndrome are often deeply ingrained and can vary from person to person, but here are some common ones:

  1. Perfectionism: Believing that you must do everything perfectly and that anything less is unacceptable. This belief can lead to a fear of making mistakes or being judged, which fuels Imposter Syndrome.
  2. Overvaluing Competence: Placing an excessive emphasis on knowing everything and being able to handle every situation without help. This can make you feel inadequate when you encounter something new or challenging.
  3. Fear of Failure: Viewing failure as a sign of incompetence or weakness. This fear can prevent you from trying new things and can make you feel like an imposter when you’re not successful on the first try.
  4. Discounting Success: Attributing your achievements to external factors like luck, timing, or help from others, rather than recognizing your own abilities and efforts. This belief undermines your achievements and contributes to feeling like a fraud.
  5. Comparison with Others: Constantly comparing yourself to others and feeling like you don’t measure up. This can be especially prevalent in environments where you’re surrounded by highly talented or accomplished individuals.
  6. Fear of Success: Believing that you don’t deserve success or that you won’t be able to replicate your achievements. This can lead to anxiety about being “found out” if you can’t meet or exceed your past successes.
  7. Self-Doubt: A persistent sense of doubt in your skills, talents, and accomplishments. This can be exacerbated by new challenges or environments, leading to feelings of being an imposter.
  8. High Expectations from Others: Perceiving that others have unrealistic expectations of you and fearing that you will let them down. This can stem from past experiences of high achievement and the pressure to maintain that level of success.
  9. Difficulty Accepting Praise: Feeling uncomfortable with recognition and praise, often because you don’t believe you deserve it. This can reinforce the idea that you’re not truly skilled or competent.
  10. Internalized Messages: Absorbing and believing negative messages about your abilities from others or from societal stereotypes. This can affect self-esteem and contribute to feelings of being an imposter.

Recognizing these beliefs is the first step toward addressing Imposter Syndrome. Strategies such as reframing thoughts, seeking support, and challenging negative beliefs can be effective in overcoming it.

Remember, experiencing Imposter Syndrome anxiety is common, and acknowledging your feelings can be a powerful step towards overcoming them.

5 types of imposter syndrome anxiety

Imposter Syndrome takes on various forms, each manifesting with unique characteristics. It’s essential to identify the type of Imposter Syndrome one might be experiencing to effectively strategize a coping mechanism. Let’s delve into these five main types identified by Dr. Valerie Young and explore a couple of additional categories that I’ve observed over my years of counseling experience.

1. The Perfectionist

“The Perfectionist” is one type of imposter syndrome. As you might guess, this involves feeling like an imposter because you believe you’re not as good as others might think you are, unless you’re absolutely perfect. It’s important to remember that it’s simply not possible to do everything flawlessly all the time. It’s also worth noting that very often, the only person setting these impossibly high standards is yourself.

2. The Superwoman/man/person

The Superwoman/man/person is another common manifestation of imposter syndrome. They face a continuous drive to work harder and achieve more, often falling into a cycle of stress and anxiety. Despite their efforts, they continually feel unfulfilled and unsatisfied, regardless of their achievements or the praise they receive.

3. The Natural Genius

Individuals classified as “The Natural Genius” feel like frauds simply because they don’t believe they are naturally intelligent or competent. Should they stumble or struggle to master a skill, they feel like an imposter. As a Natural Genius, it’s crucial to understand that everyone learns at their own pace and a single failure or misstep doesn’t define your abilities or worth.

4. The Soloist

The Soloist type of imposter syndrome involves the belief that asking for help equals failure. If you had to request assistance or teamwork to achieve something, you may feel like a fraud. Remember, most significant accomplishments in life require collaboration and asking for help is a strength, not a weakness.

5. The Expert

“The Expert” feels like an imposter because they think they don’t know everything there is about a topic or that they haven’t fully mastered a process. They don’t believe they’ve reached the rank of the “expert”. It’s crucial for them to realize that learning is an ongoing process, and nobody knows it all.

Beyond these five main categories, there are a couple of specific types I’ve frequently observed:

The Noticer

This type of Imposter Syndrome stems from being keenly observant and therefore, more susceptible to comparison. The “Noticer” constantly watches others’ achievements, comparing them with their own. They put themselves down if they perceive others are performing better.

The Discounter

People who fall into this camp tend to downplay their successes, attributing their wins to sheer luck, good timing or believing that they’ve fooled others. The “Discounter” struggles to internalize achievements, constantly questioning their validity.

Understanding these distinct types of Imposter Syndrome can provide clarity when seeking strategies to deal with these negative feelings of self-doubt and inadequacy. The road to overcoming Imposter Syndrome anxiety starts with identifying your particular type and working towards breaking its associated patterns.

What kind of imposter are you? 15 questions to help you find out

Ever had that persistent inner voice negating your achievements? Let’s dig deeper. It’s essential to identify the type of imposter syndrome you might be wrestling with. Here’s a set of 15 questions aimed to help you uncover the truth.

  1. Do you often feel like your success is a result of luck, not effort?
  2. Do you worry that others will expose you as a fraud?
  3. Do you discount your success, attributing it to external factors?
  4. Are you uncomfortable accepting praise for your work, feeling undeserving?
  5. Do you feel like you don’t belong in your field, despite your accomplishments?
  6. Are you constantly comparing your work to others, resulting in feelings of inadequacy?
  7. Do you fear failure, perceiving it as a blow to your identity?
  8. Are you always pushing for perfection, unsatisfied with ‘good enough’?
  9. Do you feel immense pressure to perform better than the rest?
  10. Do you feel that you’ve somehow tricked others into thinking you’re competent?
  11. Do you have difficulty taking credit for your contributions?
  12. Do you consider your achievements as trivial, downplaying them?
  13. Do you fixate on mistakes or criticism over celebrating accomplishments?
  14. Do you believe that you should know everything in your field, fearing gaps in your knowledge?
  15. Do you work relentlessly, fearing downtime indicates you’re not contributing enough?

Let’s analyze these questions and what they reveal. Don’t be surprised if you feel some questions resonating more than others. Remember, there’s not a ‘one-size-fits-all’ type. It’s more of a spectrum whereby individuals might exhibit characteristics attributed to multiple types.

If questions 1, 3, 9, 11, and 14 weigh heavily on your mind, you might lean towards the ‘The Expert’ type. On the other hand, if you find yourself nodding more to questions 4, 8, 10, 13, and 15, it’s possible that you are dealing more with ‘The Perfectionist’ kind of imposter syndrome.

Do you have core beliefs you want to change? Call David now.

How to deal with imposter syndrome

Imposter syndrome is a challenge we need to face head-on, armed with effective coping mechanisms. It’s not something that will vanish overnight. However, by understanding its roots and countering the impostor tendencies, we can certainly mitigate its impact on our lives.

One key strategy is recognizing and acknowledging the thoughts and feelings that accompany this syndrome. When we clearly identify the self-doubt and intrusive thoughts that trigger anxiety, it’s easier to dismiss them as merely groundless fears. Knowing it’s okay to make mistakes, and learning from them instead of viewing them as failures, is a potent antidote against these unhealthy thought patterns.

Next, external validation often helps. When we’re caught in the impostor cycle, we tend to view our success purely as a result of luck or timing, not skills or competence. Seeking outside perspectives can help debunk these myths we’ve spun about ourselves. Whether it’s through mentors, therapists, or supportive friends, opening up about our fears can help relieve the burden, providing clarity and affirmation.

Thirdly, remember that perfectionism is not the key to success. Setting high standards can be good, but it’s essential to avoid equating self-worth with achievement. Perfectionism can often fuel imposter syndrome. In reality, learning and growing involve taking risks and making mistakes. Embrace the process, flaws, and all!

Lastly, self-care can’t be underestimated. Prioritizing our mental and physical health is fundamental to reducing stress and preventing burnout. Practices like regular exercise, balanced nutrition, good sleep habits, and mindfulness exercises are all effective in promoting overall wellbeing, helping us tackle imposter syndrome anxiety effectively.

It’s important to remember that dealing with imposter syndrome is a personal journey, and what works for one person might not work for another. Be patient and persistent in trying different strategies and finding the ones that work best for you. There’s no perfect, one-size-fits-all solution. After all, we’re all unique individuals with our own paths to tread.

Work Related Imposter Syndrome Anxiety

Imposter syndrome is common among workers, especially those striving for success. It often stems from low self-esteem and can be significantly underestimated, as individuals tend to hide it and persist through their struggle. Biased or cutthroat work environments exacerbate it further.

Another point that requires our attention is how diversity is approached by organizations. In the name of diversity, many organizations tend to follow a path of tokenism. They hire representatives from various demographics, effectively creating the illusion of an all-inclusive atmosphere. But without understanding, valuing, or integrating those differences within the company structure, it results in an environment of superficial diversity.

For a person from an underrepresented group, this superficial diversity can be a double-edged sword. They might feel as if they aren’t qualified enough to be there, while also shouldering the responsibility of demonstrating their individual skill and the worth of their entire group. A scenario like this only serves to ramp up the standards that one sets for themselves and ironically, feeds into the narratives of imposter syndrome.

The good news? Imposter syndrome anxiety can be recognized and addressed. It begins with acknowledging the presence of biases, and improving our understanding of diversity beyond mere token representation.

The prevalence of imposter syndrome anxiety and why it matters

Imposter syndrome is more prevalent than you may realize. It’s a widespread issue that affects people in educational institutions, workplaces, and in their personal lives. Various tools are available for diagnosing this condition. The most widely recognized is the Clance Imposter Phenomenon Scale, a 20-item Likert-scaled diagnostic tool. However, its validation remains debatable and it’s influential on the clinician’s subjectivity when assessing patients.

A study in Austria explored how imposter syndrome impacts career planning and self-efficacy among university students. The findings showed that individuals with imposter syndrome tend to exhibit less career planning, reduced job satisfaction, and decreased organizational citizenship behavior compared to their counterparts. This difference is attributed to the constant feeling of fraudulence. Imposters strive harder, meeting high personal standards, but their tendency to limit extracurricular activities often hampers their career prospects.

Disturbingly, it’s not just career progression that is at stake here, interpersonal relationships are also affected according to a cross-sectional survey. Flexibility in interpersonal relationships was found to be negatively related to imposter characteristics.

More interestingly, there appeared to be a gender difference, with type A characteristics negatively impacting men with imposter syndrome, while conversely effecting women positively.

Let’s put this data into perspective:

Negative Impact on Men with IP Women with IP
Career Planning Yes Yes
Job Satisfaction Yes Yes
Organizational Behavior Yes Yes
Interpersonal Flexibility Yes Yes
Type A Characteristics Yes No

In a nutshell, the higher prevalence of imposter syndrome anxiety is a problem worth everyone’s attention. It’s intruding into individuals’ educational pursuits, job satisfaction, and personal relationship enhancements.

Recognizing these biases and understanding diversity are essential steps in combating imposter syndrome.

Frequently Asked Questions

What is the core concept of imposter syndrome?

Imposter syndrome refers to a psychological pattern where individuals doubt their accomplishments and fear being exposed as a “fraud”. It often results in a sense of inadequacy and a persistent self-doubt despite evident success.

How does imposter syndrome affect the workplace?

Imposter syndrome can lead to low self-confidence at work, making supervisors doubt their capabilities and over-delegate tasks. This affects the work-life balance of employees, leading to stress and burnout.

What is the link between imposter syndrome and anxiety?

Imposter syndrome often comes with symptoms of anxiety and depression. The pressure to maintain control and overcommit at the workplace amplifies the effects of imposter syndrome, increasing feelings of anxiety.

How can organizations help combat imposter syndrome?

Organizations can support their employees by fostering an open and accepting work culture, providing resources for personnel development, and implementing policies that acknowledge the value of every individual’s contributions.

What strategies can help in managing imposter syndrome?

Recognizing symptoms, acknowledging accomplishments, seeking support from mentors or professional help, and redefining the idea of success and failure are some strategies that can help effectively manage imposter syndrome anxiety.

What might be the triggers of imposter syndrome?

Family expectations, cultural norms, and societal pressure for perfection and success can often trigger feelings associated with imposter syndrome. It can also rise from certain personality traits like perfectionism and people-pleasing tendencies.